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  • German military floats plan to equip its tanks with depleted uranium to a sceptical nation

    In an effort to be seen to be responding to Russian military activities in Ukraine and Crimea, the Bundeswehr is floating plans to arm Leopard tanks taken out of storage with DU ammunition, even as its allies look for alternatives in response to the global stigmatisation of the weapons.
  • Canada must do more on depleted uranium weapons

    ICBUW has produced a new briefing on Canada and DU weapons, it finds that in spite of claims to the contrary, Canada has shown little international leadership on the issue. Available to download in English and French.
  • ICBUW needs your help if our work is to continue.

    Last week, the Norwegian government announced that it will no longer fund ICBUW’s research and advocacy on DU weapons. We are now facing a funding crisis that could result in us having to close the secretariat and make the staff redundant.
  • The A-10 warthog: raising depleted uranium’s threshold of acceptability

    The apparent U-turn by the Pentagon over DU use by aircraft in Operation Inherent Resolve has been cautiously welcomed by campaigners, but is it a sign of a wider policy shift? Is the threshold of acceptability for the use of DU in operations rising in response to international pressure over the controversial munitions and what part has the A-10 played in this?
  • Pentagon announces U-turn on use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Syria

    The Pentagon has announced that depleted uranium (DU) munitions have not, and will not, be used by US aircraft in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The policy U-turn contrasts with statements made over previous months, where Pentagon officials claimed that DU would be used if needed; the decision reflects a growing stigmatisation of the controversial weapons.

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Spiralling rates of birth defects in Iraq have been hitting the headlines for over ten years yet barely anything has been done about it. Now is the time to say enough is enough and Act4Iraq

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Guide to the First Committee United Nations General Assembly

For the next two months the majority of arms control and disarmament campaigning will be concentrated on the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. Here's our guide to what is actually happening.
20 October 2014 - Rachel

United Nations logo

 

We are about to head into one of the busiest times of the year in the world of arms control campaigning. Every October, the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meets to discuss a wide range of issues relating to international peace and security.

To the untrained eye and often even the trained eye, the world of international organisations and international law is a complicated structure. It is a mixture of different bodies and organisations all with different abilities to make law. Then, there are the different types of law some that are binding on states and some that are not. Which ones apply? Which ones are just persuasive but not enforceable? What does all of this actually mean?

Unless you’re lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your view) to have spent years learning the structures of the varying international organisations and can or cannot do, it can all seem quite daunting. CADU has put together a simplified guide to the world of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions and the First Committee.

 

United Nations General Assembly

 

What is the UNGA?

The United Nations General Assembly is one of six organs of the United Nations. It was created by Article IV of the UN charter (the UN Charter is the legal document that created the United Nations, stipulated what powers it has as an organisation and how it would work). It is the only body of the UN which has representation from all 193 member states.

What power does it have?

Whilst the UNGA cannot make binding legislation (that power lies with the unrepresentative Security Council) it can make recommendations to member states in the areas it has been given competence by the UN Charter.

These recommendations form non-binding legislation. They are not actual enforceable law but ‘soft law’ which can over time transform into binding ‘hard law’. Because all states can vote and it works on majority voting (two thirds), if a resolution is successful, it does show that a majority of states support it and therefore there is a lot of political will behind it. Although, politically speaking, it can often depend on which states support it. Generally, a draft resolution is more likely to become ‘hard law’ and therefore binding and enforceable if it is supported by Security Council members.

What is the First committee?

Because of the sheer range of topics the UNGA has to discuss it has six committees which focus on different areas. The First Committee discusses all questions which fall under the heading of disarmament and international security.

The full list of UNGA committees can be found here: https://www.un.org/ga/maincommittees.shtml


There is a more in-depth description of the First Committee here: http://www.un.org/en/ga/first/

How does it work?

The First Committee meets year in New York. Representatives of each member state are welcome to attend the meeting. The committee usually meets in October where attending member states discuss the draft resolutions placed before it. In early November, member states vote as to whether each draft resolution will be placed before the full plenary session of UN General Assembly.

How do issues make it to the First Committee?

A single state or a grouping of states can submit a draft resolution to the First Committee, that state or group of states are the sponsors of the draft resolutions. They cannot be submitted by individuals or NGO’s.


You can look at the 2013 list of draft resolutions, voting results and explanations here: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/unga/2013/resolutions

What happens if an issue is successful at First Committee?

If an issue gains more than two thirds of the vote at First Committee it will then be put forward as a draft resolution to the full plenary session of the UN General Assembly in early December. All states present, vote at the plenary session, if a resolution gains more than a 2/3 majority of state votes (each state gets one vote each) then it will become a UNGA Resolution.

Does this mean that it then becomes international law?

The simple answer is no, however, as with most things in the world of international law formation, nothing is ever simple. The make-up of the UN is such that only the Security Council – which is made up of five permanent members with the power to veto decisions, and 10 non-permanent members, who are elected on a two yearly basis – can make binding legislation. Recommendations by the UNGA do carry some weight though, because at least two-thirds of states have agreed with them, in some cases, over time they can come to form what is known as customary law or to lead to a separate, binding treaty if there is political will or a lot of public pressure.

 

For more information on the draft UNGA Resolution on depleted uranium: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/new-un-depleted-uranium-resolution-calls-for-clean

If you’re super interested in keeping up with the discussions of the First Committee, you can watch them live here: http://webtv.un.org/ or follow @cadu_UK @ICBUW and #armscontrol2014 for updates.

CADU